Engine Part Found Accidentally While Hiking In Northern CA
When Dan Brewster stumbled onto the site where his uncle's
military plane crashed on California's Mt. Lassen 55 years ago, it
was a dream come true for his family.
The Reno man's 10-year search for the spot where Vernon Moe and
seven others died ended when the toe of his shoe struck the edge of
a buried airplane engine on the steep mountainside in 1998, reports
the Reno Gazette-Journal.
Brewster never met his late uncle, but has his middle name and
says the memory of the bold World War II Air Force pilot loomed
large in family lore.
Moe was co-pilot on a C-47 that went down on a flight from
Spokane, WA, to Travis Field Air Force Base outside San Francisco
during a heavy snowstorm in the winter of 1951-52. The winter of
1951-52 was notorious for bad weather.
Moe's sister, Zona, was pregnant with Brewster at the time of
the crash -- December 1951. Moe's wife also was pregnant when her
husband died. Jacqueline Moe, born two weeks after her cousin,
would never met her father.
The crash, and subsequent difficulties put both of the mothers
under stress at the time, remembers Brewster.
"I remember my mom going nuts," Brewster said. "It's a funny
kind of remembering because it's at a cellular form of
After the crash Donner Pass got 65 feet of snow, and, a month
after the plane crashed, the train City of San Francisco got stuck
on the pass, calling for a daring rescue of the passengers.
The fatal crash site wasn't found until the snow melted six
months later by a hiker on Mount Lassen. The Boy Scouts and
National Guard initially cleaned up the crash debris then buried
what was too heavy to carry out.
Brewster started looking for the site and made a series of hikes
to locate the site starting in 1988. In an effort to get records of
the crash Brewster wrote to Rep. Barbara Vucanovich, R-Nev., asking
for a copy of the Air Force's investigation. But much of the
information, including possible causes, was redacted (blacked)
Brewster, however, found that Moe had complained about the
condition of the aircraft before the flight. Using Air Force photos
of the crash he triangulated the location, then he stumbled upon
the buried engine in 1998.
Brewster took photos of what remained, compiled reports for his
family members and said his goodbyes to his uncle. "It was a kind
of closure for me," Brewster said. "(My family was) pleased to know
when and where and the circumstances involved."
Even though he never met his uncle, Brewster said he was
compelled to search for the site because of Moe's impact on the
Seeing Moe's resemblance in Brewster his mother gave him the
middle name Vernon, after her beloved brother.
Brewster told the Reno Gazette-Journal he'd like to take his
cousin Jacqueline up to the site where her father died.
"I think my cousin can make it," Brewster said. "It's a nice
hike. It's a hard hike -- right along the side of Mount Lassen in a
place called Crescent Crater."